How You Can Help Polar Bears in the Arctic Today

Scientist Steven Amstrup has been studying polar bears for decades. (Photo courtesy of Mike Lockhart)
Scientist Steven Amstrup has been studying polar bears for decades. (Photo courtesy of Mike Lockhart)

By Kitson Jazynka

In honor of International Polar Bear Day, National Geographic spoke with Steven Amstrup, who has been studying polar bears in the wild for 35 years.

“I couldn’t imagine a more interesting or captivating species to study—giant white bears roaming around in an environment that looks like the surface of the moon,” says Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International.

Although polar bears remain the top predator in the Arctic, their vital hunting platform is at risk. The Arctic’s sea ice habitat is changing “more profoundly than I could have ever imagined,” he says, which in turn affects polar bear populations. “On a global level, polar bears represent a challenge that we might all face one day, if we don’t stop the rise of global temperatures.”

Addressing the climate change issues facing polar bears, he believes, will ultimately benefit people, too. “The good news is that if we act in time to save polar bears,” Amstrup says, “I believe we can save the world.”

National Geographic talked to Amstrup about the issues facing polar bears in the Arctic.

What’s the origin of International Polar Bear Day?

The celebration was an idea conceived 11 years ago by Polar Bears International (PBI) to have a day in the late winter when we could encourage people to think about the challenges polar bears and other Arctic animals face in a warming environment.

We want to encourage people to reduce their output of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to increase the chances of survival of this vulnerable species and its fragile ecosystem.

Why is the sea ice environment so critical for polar bears?

Polar bears spend almost their entire lifecycles on the surface of the sea ice. They very seldom, at least historically, come on —> Read More